The absence of negative reviews

Discussion in 'Loudspeakers' started by LiveJazz, Aug 8, 2013.

  1. LiveJazz Junior Audioholic

    LiveJazz
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    Perhaps I'm being naive here, but the general lack of negative reviews on loudspeakers bothers me. I get it: negative reviews means fewer speakers being shipped to the reviewer, and less advertising. Also, generally positive reviews avoid the risk of alienating certain readers. Still, aside from forum posts ;) it's really hard to find any actual negative opinions of speakers, which throws all professional reviews somewhat under the bus in my opinion...particularly those that mention any compromises or flaws...since that seems to be about as bad as it gets. The range seems to be "positive with a few caveats" to "ecstatic."

    I write this because I wonder how often a reviewer actually uncovered major flaws, but must write the review in a way that chalks it up to subjective preferences, music selection, or the reviewer's own biases. In other words, a lukewarm review of a bad speaker that should have/would have been reviewed negatively if the reviewer was honest.

    Or the other option: above a certain price point there really are no "bad" speakers...it really does just amounts to different design goals and personal taste, hence the need to simply go listen.

    Thoughts? Are there any speakers out there that are, subjective preferences aside, inexcusable? What are your thoughts on lukewarm reviews, when those seem the be as negative as they come?
  2. SearchofSub Banned

    SearchofSub
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    If you go to the same reviewer for your products for awhile and check out few of his reviews you can kind of tell his "enthusasm" for the product somewhat. Even if all his conclusions for all the products he reviewed have 4 out of 5, you can almost tell right away by the words he uses and the excitement expressed from his writing. You can then kind of tell what speakers are geniunely written as a "game changer", and which are written just to write.
  3. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    We have plenty of negative reviews of speakers if you search our database. The problem with negative reviews however is they not only offend manufacturers, but owners of the products too. It's a tight balancing act to make everyone happy, one we've had to learn the hard way over the years.
    gene,
  4. Chu Gai Audioholic Samurai

    Chu Gai
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    You know, we've been listening to crappy speakers all our lives from those on TV's, Transistor radios, our cars, boom boxes so it's not too hard to make something better that doesn't stink so much.

    The Internet has created an untold number of people who fancy themselves journalists, reviewers, social media experts, and the readers who concur because they're hungry for anything that passes as credible information. There are some reviewers who will only review products they personally choose so one might expect their reviews will tend to be positive. Even then, when they come across a product that subsequently disappoints them, one has to read their words carefully to understand what they're really saying. It's as Gene say, they don't want to alienate the manufacturers or the segment of the population that actually likes the product. Further, they don't want to alienate other manufacturers who might then be reluctant to either have their product reviewed or not advertise.

    A number of years ago, I commented harshly on I believe it was the Cain & Cain Abbeys. They were single driver 'full range' speakers which I think I called turds. A well known reviewer PM'd me and said privately that he wished he could write that but the journalistic guidelines prohibited him from doing so. His personal approach was that he doesn't waste the journalistic space to ask for a review sample.

    It's happened. Sometimes the flaws or shortcomings are disclosed, sometimes the reviewer and manufacturer manage to address these things privately and a change is made to the reviewer's sample but is not disclosed to the readers. In those cases, there's no way for (potential) owners to know if what they buy has components that are substandard because of any number of quality control issues.

    Yup, there's a lot of speakers that meet the acceptable criteria just like there are many acceptable burgers.

    Plenty. Richard Pierce, a noted speaker consultant, once said that any idiot can design a speaker and they often do.

    Women have been faking orgasms for time immemorial and men haven't picked up on it. Reviewers have deluded themselves for years thinking they know the inner workings and altruistic motivations of a company just because they're on afirst name basis and have known them for years. Enthusiasm is faked all the time and given there'senough people to rise to the reviewer's defense, critical thinking is suspended.
  5. Adam Audioholic Jedi

    Adam
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    Or simply haven't cared... :D
    Adam,
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  6. Jimz711 Full Audioholic

    Jimz711
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    It seems to me that electronics are what suffers from the only positive reviews concept. I've seen negative reviews on cars, games, movies, books, music, restaurants, etc. I just cannot recall a negative review of a speaker, a TV, computer, etc.

    Surely, people own the car involved in a negative review, yet the reviewer does not worry about the car owner getting upset. Apparently we are more attached to our electronics than anything else we own.
  7. j_garcia Audioholic Jedi

    j_garcia
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    One way it could be explained is that one does not write, or rather usually find, a bad review because it is simply in everyone's best interest to not publish a truly bad review. If you don't see positive reviews, or any reviews for that matter, there's a good chance there's a reason for that.
  8. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    Like Gene said, there are plenty of negative reviews, you just need to read between the lines.

    For example two speakers reviews from company A and company B
    Reviews for speaker from company A is glowing and highly positive and reviews B is "just as good". That should tell you something
    In addition there tons of articles here explaining how to read product measurements. Invest some time reading them and you have a better understanding of the reviews with measurements

    Another issue with negative reviews is it can ruin relation with big companies, which produce both affordable and hi-end audio product, but one bad review for certain highly overpriced bluray player and you just pissed them off big time...
  9. Jimz711 Full Audioholic

    Jimz711
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    If you think of it, the lack of negative reviews is a lot like writing or reading a reference letter. It is almost impossible to find one that just flat out disses the person as a potential employee, but if you read between the lines you can definitely find the lukewarm references.
  10. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    Infinity Classia C336 Floorstanding Speaker Review | Audioholics

    Canyon Audio Series 310-TSC Loudspeakers Review | Audioholics

    Thiel SCS4 Bookshelf Speaker Review | Audioholics
    gene,
  11. Jimz711 Full Audioholic

    Jimz711
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  12. Chu Gai Audioholic Samurai

    Chu Gai
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    If it were possible, I'd enjoy seeing pictures of the crossover as well as the internal cabinet construction. Is that a possibility Gene?
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  13. LiveJazz Junior Audioholic

    LiveJazz
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    I good example I've run across recently (that actually inspired this thread) has been Zu speakers.

    All the pro reviews are like, "they have a grainy top end, and they sound a little bloated, and they get congested with complex arrangements, and it's hard to resolve details in the soundstage...but hey, we're not judging...they're emotional speakers so we can't hurt their feelings, and they're so so pretty OMG!"

    And the forum posts basically say they're a big fat POS with an inherently flawed design, with measurements to back it up. It's just funny seeing the difference (and having never heard them, I am not passing judgement).
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2013
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  14. Hobbit Full Audioholic

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    I'd like to think that the technology has matured to the point where most speakers are pretty good and don't deserve a really bad review. As someone else mentioned, one must read between the lines, not for just the bad, but good too. I've seen too many people bash a low to mid end product when comparing it to a high end product at many times the cost. Not really a fair comparison.

    Here are a couple of examples I've read on other products:

    - A car a driver reviewer when retiring a few years back said in the late 60s through 70s if a car broke down a few miles from the lot, they would fix it and could still give it a good review. Today he would leave the car on the side of the road, call the dealer, and give it a bad review (though I doubt that happened much). Expectations have changed.

    - And more pointedly, as a cyclist I read a lot of reviews on bikes. Recently someone called out the reviewers at one web site for always giving good reviews. The reviewers fired back the with carbon fiber technology, the availability of materials, and tight manufacturing tolerances, along with the maturation of the key frame angles, that they are all good, unlike comparing all the steel and aluminum frames in the past. I can attest to this. Besides a little bit of weight differences, there's not much of a ride difference between my high end race bike and my mid end race bike I commute on.
  15. cornelius Full Audioholic

    cornelius
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    I don't follow reviews anymore, but I used to like the British mags because they seemed to pan gear a lot more. They'd give a negative review and I'd later find positive reviews in the US magazines. I also liked how the Brit mags did shootouts with a panel - so something in the list would have to have to get a bad review, or at least come in last...

    The preponderance of positive reviews these days comes from publications returning gear they didn't like, and not writing about it. And then of course there are good old ''soft reviews'' - where the reviewer didn't even listen to the gear at all...
  16. Nestor Senior Audioholic

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    I don't care whether a review is good or bad, as long as it is honest.
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  17. Cliff_is Audioholics Content Manager

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    To weigh in here...

    I think people jump on the, “They only got a good review because they are an advertiser!” bandwagon way too quickly. While it’s possible, and it can and does happen, I think there are better answers to why you don’t find a lot of bad reviews. Most of these have already been touched on in this thread.

    1. Most products are pretty good – This is very true. Take any receiver from any major manufacturer and it’s probably going to work just fine. It might not be perfect, the wattage ratings will likely be inflated, but it’s likely still a good unit. In reality, you often times have to venture into less established or more diverse categories (single driver “full-range” speakers, iPod docks, soundbars) to find truly bad products. And then, even the worst product probably does something well.
    2. Read between the lines – Part of this is simply because a good review doesn’t say, “This sucks. The end.” A forum post can say that, but in a review you need to try to be fair AND explain why you didn’t like a product so you can defend your position. The tricky part can be figuring out how big of a deal a flaw really is, a reader might need to read between the lines there. If the reviewer says that a speaker is bright, do they mean a little bright, or makes my ears bleed sort of bright? That can be tough to discern at some point. Another part of being fair, which can sometimes lead to watering down a review, is understanding why a manufacturer designed a product the way they did. For example, in my recent review of the Outlaw RR2150, I hated on the remote a bit, but at the same time was told by Outlaw the reasons they chose the remote they did. So, instead of just saying that it sucks and moving on, I explained what I liked/didn’t like, and gave some of their justification for their choice.
    3. Requesting good products- Sometimes you get to choose what you want to review, other times you don’t. When you get to choose products, why would you request something you already know sucks (just by looking at specs/literature you can often times tell)? You wouldn’t, so you don’t request those products. Other times a manufacturer will ask you to review a product, that’s when you are more likely to get something that is truly poor quality.
    4. Vendor relations – Each manufacturer is completely different to deal with. You might write a horrible review for mfgr. A, and never hear a word from them. In fact, they might turn around and ask you to review another product in hopes of showing you that they make some good products. Those companies rock. For mfgr. B, you might give a 4.5/5 star review that is more than glowing, but you have one minor gripe, and they get all bent out of shape and refuse to ever work with you again. This could be a real problem if they are an advertiser. For us, that just means that we are very clear right out of the gate with manufacturers and advertisers that there is no preferential treatment. You learn who you want to work with, who can take the heat of a poor review, and choose to work with them. It also comes down to a point of personal integrity. You might not be able to just tell if a publication has any integrity, but over time it should be easy to tell if they just pump out flowery crap to bring in ad revenue or actually care about their reviews.
    Anyway, with all that said, there are certainly more than a few “questionable” review sites out there. Tom actually just did a podcast reviewing a review from another site. Things like, only using press release photos for a review, not including any measurements, or spending 90% of the review talking about specs (granted, a good part of any review is simply explaining what a product can/can’t do) are all red flags.
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  18. BoredSysAdmin Audioholic Warlord

    BoredSysAdmin
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    I agree on all points Cliff, but one.
    The quote above refers to what AH calls "previews" and Imo should not be mixed with real reviews. Nothing red flag about them, but please,please these previews, make review section on main site much harder and confusing to navigate.
  19. cpp Audioholic Field Marshall

    cpp
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    I look at reviews and a manufacturers marketing comments with a bit of skepticism

    Speaker measurements can tell you a lot about how a speaker sounds, but numbers claimed by a company without measurements are useless.


    I like what one poster noted above "I don't care whether a review is good or bad, as long as it is honest."
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 19, 2014
    cpp,
  20. lsiberian Audioholic Overlord

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